On September 29th 2007 Jermain Taylor’s championship reign and unbeaten record were no more.
The former middleweight champion of the world was making fifth title defense against Kelly Pavlik and from the onset it looked like Taylor would coast to another win. All that; however, changed in the second round.
In the middle of the second round Taylor floored Pavlik and had him badly hurt for the rest of the round. Through the sheer determination of Pavlik and Taylor’s incompetent killer instinct, Pavlik survived the round and from round three started to find a groove. For Taylor his window of opportunity turned into a catastrophe when Pavlik eventually was able to put his punches together, find Taylor’s chin and score a spectacular seventh-round knockout to win the 160-pound world championship.
In the wake of his first professional defeat, Taylor (27-1-1, 17 KO’s) exercised his contractual right to an immediate rematch with Pavlik (32-0, 29 KO’s), which will take place Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
The world title, however, will not be on the line. Due to Taylor’s difficulties making 160 the fight will take place at a negotiated 166 pounds. This means win or lose, Pavlik remains world champion.
For Taylor this fight is simply about revenge and redemption. Also and probably more importantly Taylor has a chance to resurrect his attitude that started to come under scrutiny during his championship reign.
Taylor seemed to adopt a taking-for-granted attitude when he hired hall-of-fame trainer Emanuel Stewart after beating Bernard Hopkins for the middleweight championship. His technique, not a strong suit of his, deteriorated under the guidance of Stewart. Furthermore, the once vaunted punching power that Taylor possessed oddly degenerated. This showed when he looked less than impressive against Winky Wright, Kassim Ouma and Cory Spinks, three former 154-pound champs who were moving up to challenge for Taylor's middleweight crown.
In an effort to restore the hunger and drive that helped him get to the stage where he is now, Taylor ditched Steward and decided to make Ozell Nelson, his surrogate father and amateur trainer, his chief trainer.
Whatever lessons Taylor has taken from Stewart and Nelson better be put to good use, in order to avoid the same disappointment of losing again. Pavlik is not as skilled as Taylor but his heart, attitude, and punching power put Taylor in his predicament.
Unlike Taylor, Pavlik is humble man who seems to appreciate how fortunate he has been and will surely fight with nothing to lose. Pavlik has achieved fame and fortune just like any world-class fighter, yet success does not seem to have gone to his head. It is highly likely Pavlik is the same approachable, down-to-earth guy from hardscrabble Youngstown, Ohio, as he was before rocketing to stardom in September. Moreover, and most importantly it is almost certain that Pavlik is as committed and disciplined as he was before fame found him.
On Saturday Taylor will be in a fight bigger than boxing. He will be fighting for revenge, respect and for his reputation. All eyes will be on him. Let us hope he does not take this for granted.